Joe Brown

Boxers

1943
bronze
23 h x 23 w x 14 d inches
signed and dated on base

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Provenance: Private collection, New Jersey

Bronze with green and brown patina; lost-wax cast by 1944

Joseph Brown was an athlete, educator and sculptor.  One of Brown’s natural talents was boxing, and he began his boxing career at Temple University where he became the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) heavyweight champion.  He was lured away from the amateur realm by the money and fame of the professional boxing world, but his professional career was short-lived. 

A boxing injury resulted in Brown’s introduction to the world of art in 1929.  He became a model for a sculpting class and soon realized he was interested in sculpting.  That year he sculpted a boxer, his brother Harry and a ballet dancer.  All three works were accepted into the annual exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

After graduating from Temple University in 1931 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Education, Brown apprenticed to sculptor, physician and educator Dr. R. Tait McKenzie.  He often warned Brown: “Don’t plan on making a living with your art, because if you try, you will be shaped by the fashions in art and cease to be an artist, because you will no longer work from the basis of personal experience.”  Brown heeded this advice and combined teaching and coaching with art.

In 1938, Brown was hired as Princeton University’s boxing coach.  During his tenure as boxing coach, the Academic Dean of Princeton University, Christian Gauss, noticed a bronze statue of the champion swimmer Duke Kahanomoku on a desk.  Guass was told the artist was Joe Brown – the boxing coach.  Brown had kept silent about his artistic talent, fearing that the mix of art and athletics would be viewed as a weakness. Instead, this mixture was viewed as a strength, and Brown became a Resident Fellow of Sculpture.

He became a full Professor of Art in 1962, and retired from Princeton in 1977. Throughout his career, Brown sculpted what he knew best—sports.  His works in the National Art Museum of Sport include Dropped, Antaeus, 1951; Boxer Bandaging His Hand; and Hurling. They were donated to the Museum by Dr. Louis A. Pyle, Jr., who had been a Princeton boxer and posed for Boxer Bandaging his Hand.  Veterans’ Stadium, home of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philadelphia Eagles, is the site of four 16-foot bronzes by Joe Brown.  He not only sculpted works of sport, but also famous people such as John Steinbeck and Robert Frost.

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